Thesis Statement: In “The Things They Carried,” the soldier uses physical objects to calm their secret fears. This symbolizes emotions, spiritual burdens within the objects that symbolize times, places, and also what they feared. Another thing we are not aware of is when the author mentions dust which is a constant reminder to the soldiers that they are not safe. In this short story the narrator wanted to express the loneliness the soldiers felt and distressed because of the lives lost in this War was catastrophic. The narrator also uses his own personal experiences from Vietnam, thus allowing him to cope. Later on in the story you also see the slight psychological damages the soldiers will have. When referring to the items in the story the narrator uses them to symbolize, the characters, photos, and letters.
“The items structure both the story and the book.”(Henningfeld 1) Allowing a great deal of vision in the story, the narrator shares his stories and as well as other characters who also tell their stories. Soldiers items that they are carrying is more of a metaphor because what each soldier is actually carrying is fear, the feeling of being alive, and his haunting memories. The place in which this particular story takes place is in Vietnam. On April 16 the narrator mentions this particular date because it is when Ted Lavender dies. O’Brien mentions the month of April because it symbolizes the harshest month in Vietnam. After Ted Lavender dies, this is when Lieutenant Cross hits reality.
The men in this story deal with their unexpected and long-term effects of the Vietnam War and how they survived. Thus follows up with how the physical and emotional burden of the war affected them. There is also foreshadowing throughout the story, especially when mentioning Curt Lemon, and Kiowa before he tells the reader when and how they died. Lieutenant Cross rationalizes his part in Vietnam, His call of duty toward his country and family. He is also conflicted with his responsibilities when it comes to his men due to the distraction of Martha.
Cross begins to blame himself for losing Ted Lavender, Kiowa, and two other soldiers because of his personal distractions. Throughout the story you can point out how the narrator used the things the men carried to symbolize a part of each soldier. In the short story the narrator says “They carried the land itself.” This was referring to the dust that was on the soldiers and how it was a constant reminder of danger. The soldiers had to be aware of guerilla warfare at all times which did not allow the soldiers to ease. This wears you out as a soldier mentally and physically because you were not allowed to relax. Also a lot of people forgot these soldiers were around the ages of nineteen when fighting this war. The narrator wanted to wrap extensive details such as what the characters carry with them and what it means to them.
For example the photographs in the story that Cross carried with him tells his mental state; this tells you know the distance between home and Cross. Kiowa’s Bible represents his religious background that gives him a sense of security and also reminds him of home. A soldier named Dobbins carried his girlfriend’s pantyhose with him because it gave him a sense of security when he was scared. Rat Kiley carries comic books to represent his age and how it was the only thing that reminded him of his youth. The conflict in the story is later resolved when Lieutenant Cross burns Martha’s letters after Lavender dies. He then focuses on his soldiers death and chooses to take responsibility for the death of man who died unexpectedly. In the end the soldiers end up going home, but as different people.
When they went to the Vietnam War stripped them of their innocence and PTSD. Being in war stripes away your childhood, and forces you to grow up extremely fast. “The Things They Carried,” was a very interesting short story and also very descriptive. The narrator had a way of making you imagine how they felt especially by the tone of it and how dark it was. Conflict throughout the story was very important but towards the end what once was the conflict of the story later ended up being resolved.